Critic's Choice for the week of March 30-April 5, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

OLD-TIME NEWGRASS

Singer, fiddler, and guitarist Laurie Lewis is one of the founders of the "newgrass" movement. As a songwriter, she has a soulful worldview without denying any of life's problems or inherent humor. Musical sidekick Tom Rozum fleshes out the sound with his backing vocals and splendid mandolin, mandola, and guitar work. Friday and Saturday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. $17.50-$18.50, 8 p.m. both nights. 510-548-1761 or FreightandSalvage.org (j. poet)

LATIN PIANO TIPS

La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley continues its "Mujeres/Women" series Saturday with a performance and workshop by pianist-composer-educator Rebeca Mauleón, who burst out last year with Latin Fire, an album highlighting her mastery of both piano and her own voice. The author of two Latin piano instruction books, she'll do a workshop at 4 p.m., a brief public conversation at 8 and a full set with her quintet (featuring the excellent Cuban trap drummer Jimmy Branly) at 8:30. $15. 510-849-2568 or www.lapena.org (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

RAP CHICKS

The Bay Area's peppiest, most enterprising all-girl outfit, Sisterz of the Underground, presents another hip-hop diva showcase Thursday night at SF's Studio Z. Pirouette and electric boogie with Extra Credit Crew, and enjoy performances by Conscious Daughters, the raspy-voiced Neb Luv, Aima of the Mamaz, and Tenashus. Several progressive male emcees will also perform, among them Pep Love of Hieroglyphics, Ken Swift of Rock Steady Crew, and Greans, a groove-driven emcee quintet with a saxophone jones. To top it all off, Pam the Funkstress will spin club bangers and flashbacks on the ones and twos. 8 p.m., $10. All proceeds benefit Def Ed, an educational program for urban youth. 415-252-7666 or StudioZ.tv (Rachel Swan)

TROMBONE MAESTROS

The Bay Area has a wealth of great trombonists who blow midrange brass sounds in jazz, Latin, rock, and funk bands. Someone who has bridged all those scenes in his thirty-plus-year career is Wayne Wallace, who has composed, arranged, and played with the top regional ensembles. But as a trombonist-bandleader, he is a creative fusionist who cross-pollinates Afro-Cuban ideas with jazz. This Tuesday night he presents his Latin Jazz Ensemble at Intersection for the Arts in SF. 8 p.m., $12-$15 sliding scale. 415-626-3311. (J.C.V.)

CHIC RAPPERS

If ever an emcee represented the coming together of gangsta menace and spoken word (say, Marc Bamuthi declaiming long passages from Ras Kass), it would be Azeem, that scrappy urban mystic from the swamps of West Oakland. In fact, the rapper's only shortcoming is that his sound is so underground that it might intimidate pop radio listeners -- but maybe that's part of his appeal. Azeem performs Friday night at SF's Hotel Utah with Colossus to mark the release of Mushroom Jazz 5, the latest from Om Records DJ Mark Farina. The lineup also features Sound Providers and J. Boogie's Dubtronic Science, performing from 10 p.m. till after hours. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. TheHotelUtahSaloon.com (R.S.)

CLASSICAL

The Takàcs Quartet, soon to include SF's beloved violist Geraldine Walther, returns to Berkeley's Hertz Hall for the second installment of its complete Beethoven cycle. Hopefully with better intonation than displayed in February, the Grammy-winning quartet, capable of some of the most beautiful and moving playing to be heard, offers Beethoven's String Quartets No. 6, 7, and 16. $42, 3 p.m. 510-642-9988 or CalPerfs.Berkeley.edu (Jason Victor Serinus)

GLOBAL POP

The New York quartet Brazilian Girls call their music PoWoW: Post-orbital-Wave-osmosis-Warp. They manage to jam raunchy Jamaican dancehall beats, swaying sambas, Argentine tangos, Hawaiian slide guitar licks, pop, rock, and disco together and make it sound natural and danceable. Their secret weapon is sultry chanteuse Sabina Sciubba, a subtle multilingual vocalist of the Astrud Gilberto less-is-more school (and for the record, she's Italian, not Brazilian). Tonight at Bimbo's in San Francisco. $15, 9 p.m. 415-474-0365 or Bimbos365Club.com (j.p.)

WORLD BEATS

From Samba Ngo to Bembeya Jazz, Berkeley's all-ages Ashkenaz brings in Africa's most vibrant artists. On Friday, the community center presents the local debut of Cameroon's Erik Aliana & Korongo Jam, a young sextet that seamlessly blends acoustic village past with electrobeat present. One moment the group is harmonizing over spare percussion, and the next it's setting the dancefloor on fire with jangly guitars and traditional rhythms amped up by musicians raised on rock and Afro-funk. 9:30 p.m. $11-$13. 510-525-5054 or Ashkenaz.com (Larry Kelp)

BETTER TELEVISION

Recent reviews of NBC's new British sitcom-redux, The Office, confirm what you always suspected: American television has a reverse-Midas touch. Put bluntly, the mainstream networks have a special talent for taking a golden idea and turning it into shit. Add that to the increasing tide of conglomeration in the media, and you realize it really is time to kill your television. Once you're freed from the matrix, come celebrate with Mos Def, Michael Franti, Goapele, Crown City Rockers, and Youth Speaks champion slam poets, who are offering a free Take Back Your TV performance in support of independent media. It all goes down at 6 p.m. Monday, on King St. between 2nd and 3rd streets in San Francisco. And make sure you check out the after-party at Club Mighty, featuring Mos Def and Goapele, along with wax hits from DJs ?uestlove, Sake 1, and Mr. E. Cop those free tickets at TakeBackTV.com (R.S.)

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